Friday, 24 May 2013

The Spectacle of Violence

While the events involving a stabbing attack on a British soldier in London are still shrouded in uncertainty, possible revenge attacks have also started. The grisly spectacle has quickly devolved into a violence-porn media chasing every possible rumor or story. Whether the attackers had some religious or political motive or merely were apolitical attention seeking sociopaths, I do not know. This does, however, illustrate one of the darker points of the current media cycle.

Compared to the USA, the city of London has become a virtual police state (although the Americans are rapidly changing that). There are CCTV cameras everywhere, privatized police/security, and strict gun (and other weapon) control laws. Despite all of these 'precautions,' a mad slasher with a knife and one unlucky victim managed to provoke such a media reaction (and public backlash). A grim "return on investment" for the price of a cheap blade would be millions of pounds worth of police/security/media coverage of such an event that feeds upon itself as the frenzy builds.

For all the fuss about an inaccurate, exploding 3D printed gun in recent times, the knife attack serves to remind that the equipment for disruptive actions (including violent ones) is rarely far outside one's own kitchen. Even with development of 3D printers, firearms, and ad hoc explosives vanish from the earth, a single edged weapon can still stand as an assassin's weapon, as it has for the sum total of human history. Why should the future be different?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Tipping Points

Corruption becomes routine as the facade of legality falls away. In particular, once the corruption reaches certain levels, it becomes routine. The political and legal systems become detached from the laws of nature and reality, even basic biology. As the gap between rich and poor widens, attempts at surveillance and control expand, even in prosperous countries. Despite the fact that a thriving middle class is a better deterrent to violence and crime, politicians still reach for powers even they barely comprehend. There comes a point when savvy members of the old order jump ship. That point may come as an unstable world economy crashes again.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Breeding House

Disease has long changed human history, from the Black Death to brain altering parasites. One problem with a lack of diversity and monoculture around the world, coupled with fragile political and financial institutions, is that a pandemic (or fears of one) can cause disruptions that terrorists could only dream of. As gaps between upper and lower classes grow, so does the lack of medical care. The classic Edgar Allen Poe story "The Masque of the Red Death" comes to mind, as decadent aristocrats hide within walled keeps as a plague devastates the country around them. As climate change accelerates and home biotech gets cheaper, designer diseases and basement bugs may give nature a kick in the pants.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Fun with Drones

Robotic insects take to the skies. These are the herald of things to come. Poisonous assassin bug swarms, surveillance drones, and others may claim descent from such work.